Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back to Basics: What is a miracle?

Helix Nebula, Creative Commons photo
Miracle is one of those words that gets overused and then its meaning it diluted, like "awesome".

"This ice cream is awesome!"
"God is awesome!"

The dramatic rise in people accepting and even seeking the charismatic gifts means that more people believe that people are performing miracles, and believing that God is doing miracles left and right. Healings, gold fillings, gold dust falling, a wind coming up at just the right time, a financial windfall...all are claimed as miracles. But are they? What exactly are miracles, according to the bible? And does God do miracles today?

While cessationists like me by no means deny that God has always had the power and will to do a miracle, and does them today, they are much less frequent than we suppose, IF in fact, perhaps nonexistent. But nowadays, everyone is claiming a miracle.
Today, we hear an awful lot of talk about miracles, somebody says, "I had a financial need and a miracle happened. The mailman came and in the mail was a check for just the amount of money I needed. It was a miracle." Or you hear someone say, "I went to the mall and there was a parking place right by the entrance. It was a miracle." Or a mother might sense something wrong in an adjoining room and investigate just in time to stop her little toddler from putting a paper clip into an electrical outlet, and say, "It's a miracle." Or maybe you were thinking and praying for somebody and just seemingly at the time you were doing that, the phone rang and it was the very person you were thinking about, and they were right there to be encouraged and you say, "That was a miracle." Well, we call those things miracles, but they're not miracles. A miracle is a supernatural event which has no human explanation. More than that, a miracle is a supernatural event which suspends natural law. (Source)
A miracle gives full warrant that it is from God.
~Augustus Strong

The popular African charismatic evangelist Angus Buchan, of the movie Faith Like Potatoes, planted potatoes and said it was a miracle that they grew. To be sure, the soil in his field was not conducive to bumper crops of potatoes, and he had been warned if a high probability of failure, but he attributed the fact that potatoes grew to a supernatural, direct and divine miracle.

Christian Apologetics and Resource Ministries defines miracle as
A miracle is an out-of-the-ordinary direct and divine intervention in the world. Examples would be the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus walking on water, the resurrection of Lazarus, etc. Some hold that it is a violation of the natural order of physical laws. Others maintain that there is no such violation upon God's part but only a natural manifestation of His work.

They are also known as powers and signs (Mark 9:39; Acts 2:22, 19:11) and mighty works (John 10:25-28). They are a manifestation of the power of God over nature (Joshua 10:12-14), animals (Num. 22:28), people (Gen. 19:26), and illness (2 Kings 5:10-14). They are produced by God's power (Acts 15:12), Christ's power (Matt. 10:1), and the Holy Spirit's power (Matt. 12:28).
I like Augustus Strong's definition,
A miracle is an event in nature so extraordinary in itself and so coinciding with the prophecy or command of a religious teacher or leader as fully to warrant the conviction on the part of those who witness it, that God has wrought it with the design of certifying that this teacher or leader has been commissioned by him.
Why are there miracles?

Strong again:
Miracles are the natural accompaniments and attestations of new communications from God. The great epochs of miracles—represented by Moses, the prophets, the first and second comings of Christ—are coincident with the great epochs of revelation. Miracles serve to draw attention to new truth, and cease when this truth has gained currency and foothold.
Some of the miracles in the Incarnation of Jesus' time were making the blind to see. Do you realize there was no other recorded healing of this type in the Old Testament or the New, until Jesus did it? John 9:1-7 records Jesus performing a miracle of making an adult man born blind to see.

This is an amazing case, because Jesus didn't cure a temporary condition recently onset, he reversed a biological, genetic defect.

The case of Lazarus was also a bona fide miracle, because Jesus raised a man who had been dead so long. Once again, He reversed biology by renewing the man's very cells at the same time He gave Lazarus life again.

Finding a parking space in the front row, by comparison, is not a miracle.

Easton's Bible Dictionary defines miracle as:
An event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or the simple volition of God, operating without the use of means capable of being discerned by the senses, and designed to authenticate the divine commission of a religious teacher and the truth of his message (John 2:18; Matthew 12:38).
The Apostles performed bona fide miracles also. They healed, raised the dead. Philip was whisked in a lateral 'rapture' or snatching away from one place to another. (Acts 8:39-40). That was a miracle. I'm hoping that in the New Jerusalem we can all travel that way ;)
Wisps, CC, by The Mighty Tim Iconnu

To look at what a miracle is, let's look at why they exist. S. Lewis Johnson said in his sermon "Divine Providence, or What About Miracles?" (Matthew 12:25-30),
Now you can see from just these passages that in our Lord’s mind, the miracles were not done simply to give evidence of the power of God, but they were given and performed by him with reference to a particular Messianic purpose. That is, the ultimate coming of the Messianic kingdom.
As for the apostles, the reason they were given power to do signs, is as Dr Johnson explains in the same sermon,
2 Corinthians 12:12, “Truly, the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience in signs, wonders and mighty deeds.” Now notice here the expression, “The signs of an apostle.” And he goes on to say that the signs of the apostles are signs, wonders and mighty deeds. Miracles were the signs of the relationship of the apostles to our Lord. They were the signs that they were apostles, and they also were signs that in their ministry there was a connection between what they were saying and the kingdom of God that would come upon the earth.
Miracle of the Fishes, 1874 Alexander Bida
We don't need people to perform a miracle any more because the bible now tells us about the Kingdom. We were not alive to hear Jesus in His incarnation, but the Spirit recorded the words through men, and we can read them and hear them. The signifying events are no longer necessary.

Miracles were done in in Moses’ day; in Elijah and Elisha’ day; in the day of our Lord and the apostles. He performed the miracles Himself or through men so as to accomplish His redemptive purposes. The miracles were signs of the accomplishment of his purpose of salvation. He will perform miracles again, Himself, via angels, and through men during the times prophesied in Revelation.

Here is a list of all the miracles, according to ATS Bible Dictionary,

The creation of all things, Genesis 1:1-31.
The deluge, comprising many miracles, Genesis 6:1-22.
Moses &the Burning Bush, illustration from 1890 Holman Bible
The destruction of Sodom, etc., Genesis 19:1-38.
The healing of Abimelech, Genesis 20:17,18.
The burning bush, Exodus 3:2-4.
Moses' rod made a serpent, and restored, Exodus 4:3-4 7:10.
Moses' hand made leprous, and healed, Ex 4...6-7.
Water turned into blood, Exodus 4:9,30.
The Nile turned to blood, Exodus 7:20.
Frogs brought and removed, Exodus 8:6,13.
Lice brought, Exodus 8:17.
Flies brought, and removed, Exodus 8:21-31.
Murrain of beasts, Exodus 9:3-6.
Boils and blains brought, Exodus 9:10,11.
Hail brought, and removed, Exodus 9:23,33.
Locusts brought, and removed, Exodus 10:13,19.
Darkness brought, Exodus 10:22.
First-born destroyed, Exodus 10:29.
The Red Sea divided, Exodus 14:21-22.
Egyptians overwhelmed, Exodus 14:26-28.
Waters of Marah sweetened, Exodus 15:27.
Quails and manna sent, Exodus 16:1-36.
Water from the rock, in Horeb, Exodus 17:6.
Amalek vanquished, Exodus 17:11-13.
Pillar of cloud and fire, Numbers 9:15-23.
Leprosy of Miriam, Numbers 12:10.
Destruction of Korah, etc., Numbers 16:28-35,46-50.
Aaron's rod budding, Numbers 17:8.
Water from the rock, in Kadesh, Numbers 20:11.
Healing by the brazen serpent, Numbers 21:8,9.
Balaam's ass speaks, Numbers 22:28.
Plague in the desert, Numbers 25:1,9.
Water of Jordan divided, Joshua 3:10-17.
Jordan restored to its course, Joshua 4:18.
Jericho taken, Joshua 6:6-20.
Achan discovered, Joshua 7:14-21.
Sun and moon stand still, Joshua 10:12-14.
Gideon's fleece wet, Jud 6:36-40.
Midianites destroyed, Jud 7:16-22.
Exploits of Samson, Jud 14:1-16:31.
House of Dagon destroyed, Jud 16:30.
Dagon falls before the ark, etc., 1 Samuel 5:1-12.
Return of the ark, 1 Samuel 6:12.
Thunder and rain in harvest, 1 Samuel 12:18.
Jeroboam's hand withered, etc., 1 Kings 13:4,6.
The altar rent, 1 Kings 13:5.
Drought caused, 1 Kings 17:6.
Elijah fed by ravens, 1 Kings 17:6. Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—(Galatians 3:5).
Meal and oil supplied, 1 Kings 17:14-16.
Child restored to life, 1 Kings 17:22-23.
Sacrifice consumed by fire, 1 Kings 18:36,38.
Rain brought, 1 Kings 18:41-45.
Men destroyed by fire, 2 Kings 1:10-12.
Waters of Jordan divided, 2 Kings 2:14.
Oil supplied, 2 Kings 4:1-7.
Child restored to life, 2 Kings 4:32-35.
Naaman healed, 2 Kings 5:10,14.
Gehazi's leprosy, 2 Kings 5:27.
Iron caused to swim, 2 Kings 6:6.
Syrians smitten blind, etc., 2 Kings 19:35.
Hezekiah healed, 2 Kings 20:7.
Shadow put back, 2 Kings 20:11.
Pestilence in Israel, 1 Chronicles 21:14.
Jonah preserved by a fish, Jonah 1:17 2:10.

New Testament Miracles.
The star in the east, Matthew 2:3.
The Spirit like a dove, Matthew 3:16.
Christ's fast and temptations, Matthew 4:1-11.
Many miracles of Christ, Matthew 4:23-24 8:16 14:14,36 15:30 Mark 1:34 Luke 6:17-19.
Lepers cleansed, Matthew 8:3-4 Luke 17:14.
Centurion's servant healed, Matthew 8:5-13.
Peter's wife's mother healed, Matthew 8:14.
Tempests stilled, Matthew 8:23-26 14:32.
Devils cast out, Matthew 8:28-32 9:32-33 15:22-28 17:14-18.
Paralytics healed, Matthew 9:2-6 Mark 2:3-12.
Issue of blood healed, Matthew 9:20-22.
Jairus' daughter raised to life, Matthew 9:18,25.
Sight given to the blind, Matthew 9:27-30 20:34 Mark 8:22-25 John 9:17.
The dumb restored, Matthew 9:32-33 12:22 Mark 7:33-35.
Miracles by the disciples, Matthew 10:1-8.
Multitudes fed, Matthew 14:15-21 15:35-38.
Christ walking on the sea, Matthew 14:25-27.
Peter walking on the sea, Matthew 14:29.
Christ's transfiguration, etc., Matthew 17:1-8.
Tribute from a fish's mouth, Matthew 17:27.
The fig tree withered, Matthew 21:19.
Miracles at the crucifixion, Matthew 27:51-53.
Miracles at the resurrection, Matthew 28:1-7 Luke 24:6.
Draught of fishes, Luke 5:4-6 John 21:6.
Widow's son raised to life, Luke 7:14,15.
Miracles before John's messengers, Luke 7:21-22.
Miracles by the seventy, Luke 10:9,17.
Woman healed of infirmity, Luke 13:11-13.
Dropsy cured, Luke 14:2-4.
Malchus' ear restored, Luke 22:50-51.
Water turned to wine, John 2:6-10.
Nobleman's son healed, John 4:46-53.
Impotent man healed, John 5:5-9.
Sudden crossing of the sea, John 6:21.
Lazarus raised from the dead, John 11:43-44.
Christ's coming to his disciples, John 20:19,26.
Wonders at the Pentecost, Acts 2:1-11.
Miracles by the apostles, Acts 2:43 5:12.
Lame man cured, Acts 3:7.
Death of Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:5,10.
Many sick healed, Acts 5:15-16. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:4).
Apostles delivered from prison, Acts 5:19.
Miracles by Stephen, Acts 6:8.
Miracles by Philip, Acts 8:6,7,13.
Eneas made whole, Acts 9:34.
Dorcas restored to life, Acts 9:40.
Peter delivered from prison, Acts 12:6-10.
Elymas struck blind, Acts 13:11.
Miracles by Paul and Barnabas, Acts 14:3.
Lame man cured, Acts 14:10.
Unclean spirit cast out, Acts 16:18.
Paul and Silas delivered, Acts 16:25-26.
Special miracles, Acts 19:11-12.
Eutchus restored to life, Acts 20:10-12.
Viper's bite made harmless, Acts 28:5.
Father of Publius, etc., healed, Acts 28:8,9

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. (Daniel 4:2)

But in no way were miracles themselves proof of faith. Miracles confirm already existing faith, but rarely if ever catalyzed a person to faith. As A. Strong describes:
Miracles alone could not produce conviction. The Pharisees ascribed them to Beelzebub. Though Jesus had done so many signs, yet they believed not.... Though miracles were frequently wrought, they were rarely appealed to as evidence of the truth of the gospel. They are simply signs of God's presence in his world. By itself a miracle had no evidential force.
Depiction of the Holy Spirit dove
(ceiling fresco in St. Charles's Church,
Vienna, 1700's)
There are interior miracles, and external miracles. An interior miracle would be prophecy, as the LORD gave words to the mind of the prophets and as the Spirit inspired the New Testament writers. Another interior miracle is the breaking of sin's hold on a newly regenerated person. Justification is an internal miracle. We can't see the actual breaking of bonds or the new heart, but we can see the effects of this interior miracle, the fruit of the Spirit.

The Spirit indwelling men is an internal miracle. The growth of a person in sanctification is another internal miracle. These are miracles because they are done by God without an intermediate instrument directly upon a person's soul, heart, mind, and body. It truly IS a miracle when we are saved!! These are the miracles in works of grace.

An external miracle are all the others I posted above in the ATS Dictionary list. Consistently, the word for miracle in the bible is "sign". A sign points to something. In the case of a miracle, the sign points to God.

John MacArthur said in his sermon, Does God Do Miracles Today?
And the types of miracles that are being claimed today are absolutely nothing like New Testament miracles, absolutely nothing like them. In fact, the types of miracles today could be distinctly seen as different than New Testament miracles. Jesus and the apostles instantly and completely healed people born blind, a paralytic, a man with a withered arm. All obvious and disputable miracles, even Jesus' enemies didn't challenge the reality of His miracles that He had the people there to verify them. He raised the dead, of course, as we well know. They never did a miracle that was slow, they never did a miracle that took time, they never did a miracle that was less than permanent. By contrast, most modern miracles are partial, gradual, temporary, sometimes reversed, and almost impossible to verify.
So before we go around claiming this or that miracle, let's honor the Holy Spirit, our High priest
The Gathering of the Manna, c1470
Jesus, and Father God by pausing a moment to decide if we need to use different terminology. The miracles in the Old Testament and the New signify of God. There were miracles of creation, where He used no instrument but by the power of His word, created. Genesis 1:1 is an example of that. So was the coin in the fish's mouth and the appearance of manna. There are miracles of healing, of triumphs over demons, of demonstration of power over nature, such as calming the storm at Galilee or shriveling the fig tree or causing rain or stopping the rain. There were miracles over animals, such as making Balaam's donkey speak or the animals passively migrate to the ark or instructing the ravens to feed Elijah.

Miracles are a tremendous thing to ponder in scripture and to reverentially ascribe to God's power, love, and creative artistry. Let's not willy-nilly diminish that awe and reverence by calling mundane things miracles or ascribing to God what He has not done.

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Mark 13:22)

A final word. Providence. Readers of this blog know I speak of it often and I'm fascinated by it. In my opinion, one of the reasons I love God's Providence is because it is a complicated and wonderful miracle. It is certainly a tremendous thing to part the Red Sea. But how much more tremendous to providentially direct each and every step of both Mary's and Joseph's ancestors' lives since the time of Adam and Eve, so that the two would meet at the perfectly correct time, and produce the babe Jesus?

Orchestrating each and every molecule of all material matter at every moment so that God's plan for His Son come to pass is such a miracle that my mind cannot comprehend a God who does this so easily and by the power of His word and His will. Our God is not to be trifled with, loving as He is. Miracles are done every day in sustaining this world alive, and all the people on it. Let's not diminish that by rejoicing over a parking space at the mall. Convenient, yes. Miracle? No.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A two part look at the southern US border situation and influx of people: part 2

In part 1 we looked at migrations since bible times, and what the bible says about treating the foreigner residing among us.

In current times, mass migrations of populations still occur with regularity.

The BBC writes of the greatest mass movement of populations ever:
The end of World War Two brought in its wake the largest population movements in European history. Millions of Germans fled or were expelled from eastern Europe. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, survivors of the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis, sought secure homes beyond their native lands. And other refugees from every country in eastern Europe rushed to escape from the newly installed Communist regimes.
From Wikipedia we learn of immigration to the United States that,
  • Nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States from 2000 to 2010.
  • From 1836 to 1914, over 30 million Europeans migrated to the United States.
  • The peak year of European immigration was in 1907, when 1,285,349 persons entered the country
  • Today Mexico is largest sending country with 135,000 annually (escaping poverty) and China is next with 71,000 (escaping industrial pollution). Mexico has been #1 sender and China #2 since at least 1990
In 1921, America installed a nation-by-nation quota on how many to allow in from each sending nation. Entry could be monitored and thus immigrants absorbed without overwhelming the services, lands, towns and cities. It was done away within 1965.

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

In 2001 there was an issue in a city north of where I was living, Lewiston Maine. PBS reported in 2007:
Somali refugees began arriving in Lewiston, Maine (pop. 36,000) six years ago. Word spread that Lewiston had good schools, a low crime rate and cheap housing — and the Somalis began arriving in droves.
The NY Times wrote,
More than 1,000 have poured into this city of 36,000 in the last 18 months. Immigration experts said they could not think of another city that, proportionately speaking, had absorbed so many newcomers so quickly.
Lewiston is mill city. Unemployment was high, so the draw of Somalis was not due to an availability of easily obtained jobs. Maine's climate is well known for its long, frigid winters with heavy snowfall, in contrast to Somalia's climate at the desert equator with some of the highest mean temperatures in the world. So the draw was not the climate. Rumors went circulating among the Lewistonians that the Somalis were relocating to Lewiston from their initial settlement in Georgia because the welfare was better in Maine. Interviews with some of the newly settled confirm this was a prominent factor in their migration from Somalia to Clarkston GA to Lewiston Maine, with families back home getting the word that Lewiston was the place to come to.

Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)

So, once word was out, Somalis arriving "in droves" swamped the city. Public Schools were scrambling to find ESL teachers. Interpreters were in short supply. Social service organizations and job trainers were overwhelmed. Housing went from 20% vacancy rate down to 7% vacancy rate a few years later but rents went up accordingly. In frustration, and of concern for both the newly arriving Somalis and the beleaguered citizens of his city, in 2002 Mayor Laurier Raymond wrote an open letter to the Somali community. He pleaded with them to discourage others from settling in Lewiston. He said:
"Please pass the word: We have been overwhelmed and have responded valiantly. Now we need breathing room. Our city is maxed-out financially, physically and emotionally."
The letter received nationwide attention, and sparked a firestorm. Racial tensions increased. Religious tensions increased, Lewiston is one of the most Franco cities in the US and heavily Catholic. The Somalis were Muslim. Things have died down now, more than ten years later, but it hasn't been an easy ride.

Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country. (Deuteronomy 23:7)

Tensions arise and issues exist among legal immigrants when they pour in to one location in a sort space of time. What of illegal immigration? The lure of free stuff, a better life, and/or safety still draws people. The current immigration crisis at the Mexican border with the United States began in early June. Here is some news:

Illegal women, kids swarm US via Mexico after home countries report Obama ‘amnesty,’ free legal aid
Driven by an agricultural disaster and lured by news reports in their home countries that a feckless Obama administration has essentially declared amnesty for illegal aliens, thousands of women and children are flooding holding centers in Texas and Arizona. Since being overwhelmed by an influx of illegal immigrants at the Texas-Mexico border last month, including huge numbers of children unaccompanied by adults, the Department of Homeland Security has been transporting migrants – by bus and plane — from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to sites in Arizona, The Associated Press reported. The immigrants are mainly coming from Central America, which makes it more difficult to deport them than just sending them back to Mexico.

“They keep coming. This will not stop. The call has gone out to Central American countries, countries abroad, that if you get here the doors are open,” Wilder said.  KRGV Channel 5, in the border town of McAllen, Texas, reported that migrants from Central American countries like Guatemala are hearing news reports at home that mothers with children are being welcomed in the U.S. with plane and bus tickets to the interior.
In 2011 when North Africa lit up in warfare, (Libya, Egypt, Algeria)...hordes of refugees fled from Tripoli to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, 70 miles away. 10,000 per month were flooding in. Lampedusa's total area is 7 sq miles big. That's it.
But the island was overwhelmed by a surge of more than 30,000 migrants between February and April this year. Aid workers based on the island say the situation, although difficult, has since improved. (source)
The island lies closer to mainland Africa — only 80 km from the Tunisian coast — than Italy, making it a key gateway for migrants searching for a way into Europe. Lampedusa’s 6,000 residents are often outnumbered by thousands of migrants housed in improvised camps on the island. (source)
Just like with the Somalis to Lewiston in 2001, once the call goes out about ease of entry, whether true or not, and once the call goes out that plenty of free stuff awaits the immigrants, whether true or not, it is hard to stem the flow. Remember, Isaiah said the wicked are like the restless sea.

But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, (Isaiah 57:20).
"Word has gotten out around the world about President Obama's lax immigration enforcement policies and it has encouraged more individuals to come to the United States illegally," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, in a statement last week. The White House had pushed back on that claim — until now. Their reversal comes after a Border Patrol memo, obtained and distributed by the conservative Center for Immigration Studies said the main reason migrants traveled to the U.S. was to "to take advantage of the 'new' U.S. law that grants a free pass or permit" from the U.S. government. Other reasons included gang violence, economic opportunity, and domestic abuse. (source)
Winslow Homer "Northeaster" 1895

That means they are without hope. Sinners escaping sin. Hopeless people more than anyone else need to reach a dream, need to seek a gleam of light somewhere in their dark world. What they grasp will be illusions and foam, striving after wind, even if they DO make it in and find a place to settle. But they don't know this. So they try. They come.

They have no hope in Jesus, no certainty of His promises for this world and the next. Worse still, they live in grinding, generational poverty, terror-inducing generational war violence, or subsistence farming where one bug can wipe out a life's work. No wonder at the drop of a hat they'll get on a bus with their child and head north to the land of opportunity.
June 16, 2014: This year, the number of migrant children U.S. officials will apprehend along the border is expected to triple, according Customs and Border Protection. According to the memo, more than 90,000 migrant children are expected to be apprehended this year — and possibly as many as 140,000 next year. The number of unaccompanied children grabbed by border agents already grew by more than 10,000 from 2012 to 2013.
The situation is rapidly becoming a humanitarian crisis. Every day, hundreds of children cross the border, mostly making their way from violence-stricken areas in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. They have overwhelmed Border Patrol resources significantly in the Rio Grande area, and many migrants have been sent to processing facilities in Arizona. The causes for the influx are many, but a large portion are children fleeing increased drug and gang violence. (source)
Winslow Homer "The Life Line"
The situation at the border is a humanitarian crisis as well as a legal nightmare. How or why it is happening is less of an immediate concern than exists the problem of what to do. These are human beings, 'foreigners residing among us' as the bible says. Some are met with compassion. Others are met with anger.

Last week, it was reported from Florida that,
With more than 51,000 unaccompanied Central American children already here, and more expected to come, school officials ask the federal government for a helping hand.  Border kids costs more to educate, about $1,900 per head. Teachers must be bilingual. The students will need health care and psychological services because many arrive sick and traumatized by things they’ve seen and experienced on their journeys north
There is no doubt that sudden mass displacements either from refugees or immigrants, legal or otherwise, destabilize countries. Last month, Reuters reported from Iraq.

U.N. cites destabilizing risk of mass Iraqi refugee exodus
A senior U.N. humanitarian official on Tuesday flagged the risk of a mass exodus of Iraqi refugees from sectarian bloodshed overwhelming nearby countries already reeling from nearly 3 million uprooted Syrians. ... "Looking at the situation of the countries of the region, I mean Syria is obviously not a possible destination (for Iraqi refugees), Jordan is now having the enormous pressure of the Syrian refugees," Guterres said. "So it's difficult to see how the region can cope with another big refugee outflow.
Two weeks ago, it was reported that,

Syrian Refugee Crisis Destabilizes Jordan
Almost 2 million people have fled Syria since the civil war began in early 2011, according to U.N. numbers. By some estimates 800,000 of these poured into neighboring Jordan, a traditional safe haven for refugees from previously war-stricken regions such as Iraq and Palestine. This influx is taking a heavy toll on the Arab nation which by the end of the year may host as many as a million refugees.  Instability in Jordan creates a dangerous situation for the region.
So in addition to the humanitarian crisis, the legal crisis, the political crisis, there now perhaps may be a threat to the stability of the United States through destabilizing the nation with a tsunami of refugees from Central America. Though in the face of the massive and longer term displacements from Syria and Iraq, and now Gaza, the few thousand along the lengthy US border can be put into a different perspective.It's not so many people. And Turkey and Jordan are handling their thousands inflowing than we are handling our hundreds.
Winslow Homer "High Cliff" 1894

What are we to do? Is this the proper response?
The national controversy over a surge of Central American immigrants illegally crossing the U.S. border established a new battleground this week in a small Southern California town, where angry crowds stopped detained migrants from entering their community. The sentiment carried over to a raucous Wednesday night meeting at a Murrieta high school auditorium. Border Patrol and immigration officials got an earful. "This is an invasion," attendee Heidi Klute said before a full house. "Why isn't the National Guard stopping them from coming in?"
Not just Californians are angry, not just Floridians, but Texans as well. One woman at a raucous town meeting said, “What we see is not immigration, but an invasion, a deliberate invasion.”

When resources are scarce, people react with anger and fear. 9/11 changed Americans' attitudes toward immigration, fewer believed it was a good thing for the US overall. 68% down to about half, 52%. (Wikipedia). With strange diseases popping up, and with the extreme drought already stretching local resources, residents react angrily.

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:15-16)

I do not have the answers. All I can offer is a historical perspective on nations, people-movements, and reasons for such restless seas. What is happening in the southern part of the US is not anything new. It isn't particularly invasive, either, compared to the influx to Jordan and Turkey from Syria, and Lampedusa from Egypt and Libya. I can offer the biblical verses that shows Jesus  wants us to be compassionate and to show hospitality. I know it's easy for me to say that far from the areas of tension. My water isn't running out. My services aren't stretched to the limit. My fears of crime or disease aren't ignited. But isn't that an opportunity for Christians in those areas to practice peace, love, and hospitality? Isn't it an opportunity to show that we know we are not of this nation, we ourselves are sojourners and strangers. We long for a better country, we yearn to be reunited with our friends and families in heaven. is a fact that the bible also says to submit to the authorities. We can't violate civil law. John MacArthur was asked about illegal immigrants in 1985-

Answering Tough Questions About the Christian and Government
You might not realize this but we have had to deal with that not on a few occasions, of people who have come into the United States, for example, across the Mexican border or from Latin America, they come to California, they come to Los Angeles, they come to Grace Community Church, they come to a Bible study or whatever, perhaps in the Spanish department, they come to know Jesus Christ, they are saved, they become a part of the church and then we discover they're here illegally. What is our responsibility?

Well the position we have taken on that is that our responsibility is to report them as illegal but do all we can to demonstrate that there are means to maintain their residence and presence and stand along side in any way we can to assist and help. But again, not to harbor them in violation of the law.

Now somebody is going to say, "Well, I mean, if they go back they're not going to have any Christian friends, and so forth and so forth and so on." The issue is not that, the issue is you obey what God says and you trust Him to take care of the circumstances. If we had a God who couldn't be trusted, we might have a little problem here, right? If we had a God who couldn't take care of them without us, we might worry about it. And so it becomes a situation where we need to go to the authorities and let them know what the situation is. We had a young man in a very unique situation some years ago. Came to the United States because he had kidney failure, couldn't get dialysis in Mexico. Came to the United States, found here the ability to live and was saved, became a part of Grace Community Church and there he was an undocumented illegal alien, desperately in need to be here not only for spiritual reasons but for physical ones as well. And I don't remember all the details of the situation except my memory serves to point out the fact that we did everything we could with the authorities who are not without some compassion and he was able to stay until eventually, I believe, he went to be with the Lord.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”  But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29).

That is the question. Who is my neighbor? Where is the peaceful shore?


Further Consideration:

Todd Friel of Wretched Radio had a short word, regarding the children of this current immigration influx

Immigration and the Christian: Should we send them all back?

A two part look at the southern US border situation and influx of people

Part 2 here

Winslow Homer "Northeaster"
But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. (Isaiah 57:20)

[The ungodly are] wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:13)

The sea is an apt metaphor for the restlessness of the ungodly. They toss and turn, go to and fro, casting up muck and mire with ungodly thoughts and deeds. In Jude, he is speaking of infiltrating false teachers, but the metaphor is apt also to apply in general to the ungodly, their foaming spray prevents clear vision and in fact has no substance.

They waves dash themselves against the rocks, attempting to breach the ordained boundaries and come on a flood.

The situation at the southern border of the United States with Mexico has been in the news this past month. Thousands upon thousands of people are flooding across the border, seemingly unhindered. Many of these are children. It is difficult to determine why so many, why now. We have always has a porous border but it seemed that the limits were holding somewhat, but then last month the border suddenly collapsed and they came on in droves.

What do we call these people? Immigrants? Illegals? Refugees?
Winslow Homer "Summer Squall" 1904

I was asked to look into the situation and write about it. As with anything I write, I don't like to simply put something out there and leave it adrift without context. Nor do I like to write something without having a solid Christian perspective on it. I like to embed a news piece or a situation in history and place a context on it, so we can understand what it means.

What is this crisis? Is it a humanitarian crisis? A refugee crisis? An illegal immigrant crisis? A deliberate enemy combatant strategy in asymmetrical warfare?

It might do to look at a few things first. Nations are artificial. Originally, God had us on one continent, speaking one language. One race, one people. After the flood, the bible seems to hint that the continents were broken up geologically and separated by seas.

To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother's name was Joktan. (Genesis 10:25)

In that way, the geography of nations was born. Genesis 10 outlines the Table of Nations and the fathers of those nations.

The population problem grew and grew. Nimrod settled the plains of Shinar and founded Babylon. He led the inhabitants into an apostasy revolt and built a tower to a false god. So God confused the languages and scattered the people across these recently divided lands. (Genesis 11:7-8). And so, the peopled nations were born. It was the first mass migration.

Winslow Homer, "After the Hurricane" 1899
Ever since, the peoples have been a restless sea, as Isaiah metaphorically proposed, throwing up muck and mire. After the end of the church age during the Tribulation, the antichrist will arise from 'the sea',

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. (Revelation 13:1).

Pulpit Commentary says of the sea in this verse,
The sea, again, is the type of instability, confusion, and commotion, frequently signifying the ungovernable nations of the earth in opposition to the Church of God
In some cases, peoples didn't emigrate willingly. War or persecution struck many. The Old Testament has commands for how to treat "the alien" or the asylum seeker.

In fact, a multitude of Hebrews left Egypt with Moses. Jesus and his family fled persecution from Israel to Egypt. Leviticus 19:34 says,

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Other translations of the Leviticus verse say 'resident alien' or 'foreigner among you'.

And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.  (Deuteronomy 10:19)

Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country. (Deuteronomy 23:7)

Winslow Homer "Undertow" 1886
In the New Testament, Matthew 10:23 describes persecution as one reason for mass migration.

But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes.

Acts 8:1 records the persecutory migration of Christians from Jerusalem outward:

And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Ever since the separation of peoples into nations, they have moved restlessly from one side of the earth to another for one reason or another. They search for food (As Naomi and Ruth did). Sometimes they are captured and unwillingly brought to a new nation, as Daniel and his people were. (Daniel 1:1-3). Sometimes war and pestilence force them out. as the Acts 8:21 verse shows.

After Adam and Eve were forced to relocate from the Garden of Eden, they settled. Eve bore Seth, and they began to worship the LORD by name. (Genesis 4:26). Apostate, God-hater and rebellious Cain left that place, and he wandered. Cain left in search of a land that would accept him. He settled in Nod, east of Eden, and built a city; Genesis 4:16-17. Since the beginning, individuals, tribes, races, and whole populations have always moved. It is no different in these days.
Migration has always been a part of human history. But because of the widespread changes caused by globalization, more people are migrating than ever before. In the last 25 years the number of people on the move has doubled from 100 million to over 200 million.  Many migrants are forcibly uprooted and approximately 30-40 million are undocumented worldwide. (Source)
As one of the most complex issues in the world, migration underscores not only conflict at geographical borders, but also between national security and human insecurity, sovereign rights and human rights, civil law and natural law, and citizenship and discipleship. (Groody, NCR) (Source)
Winslow Homer "Eight Bells" 1886
From small tribes to mass emigrations, as Isaiah said, the unsaved are restless. Until the coming of the Son of Man, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, to install His Kingdom and deliver peace...the people as the sea will always be looking for a new horizon, a better horizon.

Part 2, the migrations of today, including the southern US border.


Further Consideration:

Todd Friel of Wretched Radio had a short word, regarding the children of this current immigration influx

Immigration and the Christian: Should we send them all back?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The first and last women mentioned in the bible

Jezebel, Byam Shaw, 1898.
I recently studied the four women of Revelation. My favorite books are Genesis and Revelation. I love firsts and lasts, the beginnings and endings of things. The 4 women of Revelation are the Jezebel of Rev 2 representing the pagan church, Woman clothed with the Sun in Rev 12 representing Israel, the Whore of Babylon of Rev 17 representing the apostate church, and the Wife of Rev 21 representing the true church.

So here is how the Holy Spirit extended my thinking some more. I was thinking about the covenant of marriage as described in the bible and reading some passages from the bible.

I took a break and was watching a tv show online from 15 years ago that used to be on the Pax channel, called Hope Island. It is a family oriented drama, a kind of faith show. It is an excellent show, the best scripted drama Pax ever put on, and it got high reviews and fan raves. So they canceled it right away. But enough about my grief.

In the episode I was watching, two main characters are getting married. She is 25 and still lives at home, not with her intended husband-to-be. Even by 1999 standards this was unusual. So the ceremony was concluded with all due gravitas and it was good, and I got to thinking about marriage and what it means to be a wife.

And then I realized that in my penchant for thinking of extremes, firsts and lasts, that if I learned in my study time a few days ago the last woman mentioned in the bible is "Wife/Bride".
Whore of Babylon, Russian engraving, 1800s

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” (Revelation 22:17)

The first woman mentioned in the bible was wife also!

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:22-25)

God takes marriage very, VERY seriously. In watching the very good clip of Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation explaining why gay marriage doesn't exist, it hammers the point home even more. And not just homosexual marriage, bigamy or polygamy is an affront to God. Divorce is also, if done under any conditions but the allowances given in the bible. The first woman is mentioned as wife in Genesis and at the end in Revelation the entire human history is seen to be God's gathering a wife for His Son.

Margaret Murray Prior, 1882 wedding dress
It also brings home the importance of women in God's plan. Complementarians know this, but egalitarians don't. God loves His people. He made two genders and two genders only. This is for many reasons, some obvious and some known only to God. But one thing is sure, one reason was so that we could unite and form a marital union ordained by God, grown by God, and pleasing to God.

And pleasing God is the thing for which we are made.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10).

Angels are an amazing part of the created order

Angels figure very, very prominently in the NT. People don't really know this, or they overlook angels in the created order. At the other end of the scale, some are so preoccupied with angels they nearly fall into angel worship.

In terms of the Providence of God, if Ezekiel's wheels within wheels are a kind of visible/invisible machinery of providence (as Spurgeon described it in his sermon "God's Providence" #3114), then perhaps the other angels are also a kind of visible/invisible machinery of God's providence, like we glimpsed in Jacob's ladder. (Genesis 28:12)

Dr RC Sproul has two lectures available on angels, part 1 & 2. He said the Greek word for angel appears in the NT more often than does the Greek word for sin (hamartanó). It also appears more often than the Greek word for love (agape).
Chris Koelle Book of Revelation Graphic Novel

Sproul taught from Hebrews and Colossians and also 2 Kings, and said it was obvious given the texts devoted them that there had been a problem in the first century of people giving them junior deity status and ascribing worship to them, with even Paul & Silas being mistaken for angels.

But with all the warnings not to overestimate angels in their position, neither does the NT deny the importance of them, Sproul said.

He also said something interesting,
Part of the problem we have with angels, is that we tend to associate angels with the supernatural realm. We think of the angels as being a supernatural being. In one sense it is correct to call angels a supernatural being. In another sense it's quite dangerous to refer to them as supernatural beings, because the one thing that's clear in the scriptures about the nature of angels is that they belong to nature. They belong to the created order. Angels are not divine. Angels are creatures, part of the original creation that God made. In THAT sense, angels are natural beings.
The reason they are looked at as supernatural beings is because of their constituent nature. The bible tells us they are creatures, but they differ from us and animals and plants in that their nature is a spirit nature rather than a physical or a material nature. Because they are spirit beings under normal circumstances, they remain invisible to the naked eye. Unless they manifest themselves in a kind of angelophany, their basic nature is invisible, dwelling in a realm that is invisible to us.
RC Sproul
Sproul said, how often do we think of angels? Of course we're not to adore them, or be preoccupied with them, but we are to give them due meditation, as they are an important part of the order and are referred to frequently in the bible. He said we need to be thinking about why there is such a heavy concentration of angels at certain times in history.

This was something that was brought to my attention back some years when I listened to John MacArthur preach through Revelation. It was an eye-opening series in many ways.

Sproul's lectures focused on the angels as messengers and angels as ministering spirits. But that is not all they are. Angels are also vehicles of Judgment. It is angels who mainly bring the judgments of Revelation. For example,

Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. ... Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. (Revelation 8:2, 6-7)

In addition to angels being part of the machinery of God's providence, messengers, ministering agents, judgment-bringers, they are also warriors.

Archangel Michael fighting the Dragon, Durer 1497
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven (Revelation 12:7)

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17)

Angels are an amazing part of the created order! I recommend both of the Sproul lectures. They are about 25 minutes each.

RC Sproul: Angels Part 1
RC Sproul: Angels part 2

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones also has a series on angels, here
S. Lewis Johnson preached about angels from Hebrews 1:4-6, Angels Worship the Son!
John MacArthur preached "Angels- God's Invisible Army"

Enjoy learning about angels, our ministering helpers, messengers of God, fighters against evil for our Holy Trinity.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ryan Anderson explains why gay marriage doesn't exist

Here is a 4-minute clip well worth watching for its logical, lawyerly speech regarding marriage. The responder is Ryan Anderson. Ryan T. Anderson researches and writes about marriage and religious liberty as the William E. Simon Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

The homosexual man at the microphone is asking why he, as a married gay man, can't have the same tax advantage when it comes time to file IRS tax returns, as a heterosexually married couple.

Anderson is brilliant in his response. The homosexual man doesn't seem to understand the underlying principle of what Anderson tried to get at three times, so finally Anderson answers the gay man's question within its limited scope. But he does that brilliantly too.

Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh
. (Genesis 2:23-24)

Anderson said in part:
Marriage is a union of sexually complementary spouses, a permanent, exclusive union- man & woman, husband & wife, mother & father. If you're not interested in entering into that sort of union, you're not being discriminated against.
What you're asking us to do is redefining marriage to include "the adult relationship of your choice." The relationship of your choice happens to be a same-sex couple. There are other adults who want to redefine marriage to include a relationship of their choice, which may be the same-sex throuple, or the opposite sex quartet.
It's like this. There is the color red. Red is known, it is certain. It is defined "of a color at the end of the spectrum next to orange and opposite violet, as of blood, fire, or rubies."
EPrata photo
Now say some people came along and wanted to add yellow to the color red. They agitated for it, proclaimed, exhorted, fought for yellow to be added to red, just because they thought that would be good.
EPrata photo

And say that they were successful in getting yellow added to red. You don't have red anymore. You have orange.

Because red and yellow make orange. Once you mix another element into the red, it becomes something else, and the old definition won't fit anymore. People will not recognize the old thing because now it is a new thing.

Once you add same-sex humans to the old definition of marriage, it isn't marriage anymore and it isn't recognizable.

The homosexual man asked as a final question, why he, Anderson didn't think that he, the gay man, had the right to get married.

Anderson concluded with this:
It's not that you don't have a right to get married, it's that what you are seeking out, isn't marriage.

Mission: Peru

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

We just prayed over and sent our 12-member mission team off to Lima, Peru. May God bless their steps and carry their words on the wind of the Spirit. Lord, may You loosen their tongues so they boldly speak of the Savior. May angels minister to them, and smooth their way. Prepare divine appointments and receptive hearts. May You keep them in Your hand as they go out and share the Gospel to the ends of the world.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Historic Centre of Lima, Peru. Wiki CC. Photo by Martin St-Amant

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Scripture photo: drink offering

Easton's Bible Dictionary: Drink Offering
Consisted of wine (Numbers 15:5; Hosea 9:4) poured around the altar (Exodus 30:9). Joined with meat-offerings (Numbers 6:15, 17; 2 Kings 16:13; Joel 1:9, 13; 2:14), presented daily (Exodus 29:40), on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9), and on feast-days (28:14). One-fourth of an hin of wine was required for one lamb, one-third for a ram, and one-half for a bullock (Numbers 15:5; 28:7, 14). "Drink offerings of blood" (Psalm 16:4) is used in allusion to the heathen practice of mingling the blood of animals sacrificed with wine or water, and pouring out the mixture in the worship of the gods, and the idea conveyed is that the psalmist would not partake of the abominations of the heathen.
What is a drink offering?
Answer: The first recorded occurrence of a drink offering was that given by Jacob in Genesis 35:14, right after God changed his name to Israel. Drink offerings were also included with burnt and grain offerings in God-ordained sacrifices, including the morning and evening sacrifices of Exodus 29:40.

One-quarter hin, about one quart, of wine was poured out into the altar fire for each lamb sacrificed (Numbers 15:4-5). A ram sacrifice required one third of a hin (Numbers 15:6), and a bull required one half (Numbers 15:10).  It has been speculated that the offering of an animal, grain, oil, and wine—the smoke making a “soothing aroma to the LORD”—is a metaphor for providing food for God, an important cultural requirement in the Middle East. What we do know is that the pouring out of a drink offering is a metaphor for the blood Jesus spilled on the cross. Jesus spoke to this directly in Luke 22:20 when He instituted the New Covenant. He picked up a cup of wine and said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Jesus’ sacrifice fulfilled the need of a drink offering, His blood literally pouring out when the soldier pierced His side with a spear (John 19:33).

Paul took the metaphor further, twice using the image of a drink offering to describe his own service. In Philippians 2:17, he challenged the church in Philippi to live a life worthy of his dedication to them. In 2 Timothy 4:6, he sensed the end of his ministry, again comparing his efforts to wine poured out of a vessel onto an altar. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

River in China runs blood red

In 2012 there was a spate of bodies of water turning blood red, and interest in the phenomenon was high.

February 2012: Beirut River runs red.  (a factory had illegally dumped red dye.)

August 2012: A lake in France turned red. ("Scientists say the blood red lakes in southern France are actually a natural phenomenon. Camargue, France is a river delta where the Rhône meets the sea. The picturesque area is home to numerous salt flats, and it is this concentration of salt that will occasionally stain red the region's normally blue water.")

September 2012: Yangze River in China runs red ("officials have no idea why, or officials say it may have been caused by recent floods stirring up silt upstream. The Environmental Protection Bureau is also looking into potential industrial pollution or sewage breaches.")

The other day a river in China turned red and interest is again high. I can only guess this is because Revelation says that rivers shall run with blood.

The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. (Revelation 16:4).

River In China Mysteriously Turns Bloody Red Overnight
Residents in Zhejiang province said the river looked normal at 5 a.m. Beijing time on Thursday morning. Within an hour, the entire river turned crimson. Residents also said a strange smell wafted through the air. ... Inspectors from the Wenzhou Environmental Protection Bureau said they have not found the cause of the incident, although water samples seem to indicate the suspicious color was a result of illegal dumping in the river....  “We suspect that somebody dumped artificial coloring in the water because he thought the typhoon yesterday would cause heavy rain, and nobody would notice [the color],” Jianfeng Xiao, Chief of the bureau told China News.  “It turned out there wasn’t heavy rainfall yesterday, so the evidence is left behind,” Xiao said.  Xiao said there is a paper manufacturer, a food coloring company and clothing-maker a long the river.

Cases like these are usually due to illegal dumping.

But whenever something like this happens, hits on the blog go way up. On the one hand, I'm glad that people are so interested in prophecy! The bible speaks of future things almost a third of the time.
Fully 17 of the Old Testament's 39 books are classified as prophetic: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. All of the other 22 books are also filled with prophecy. Source
It's a significant topic and one that is definitely worthy of study and attention. On the other hand though, too many people are willing to proclaim it a sign, and overlook the obvious.

For example, a river turning red is NOT a fulfillment of Revelation 16:4, because we have not been in the Tribulation for ten chapters. We are not in the Tribulation now, and none of the other signs have happened.

Even in Revelation 8:10 which prophesies a third of the rivers on earth turning to blood, happen because of a star falling from heaven.

The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. (Revelation 8:10)

And at that time, also a third of the seas will turn to blood as well. One cannot pick and choose which prophesies are fulfilled. Either it happens the way the bible says, or it is not a prophecy. It's some food coloring manufacturer dumping dye.

Secondly when it does happen, a third of all the earth's rivers will turn to blood. And the verse says what it says, the waters will become blood. Not salt making it look like blood, not illegally dumped dye, not silt from a typhoon, but actual blood.

I'm so grateful that people become so interested in biblical prophecy when these strange things happen. I'm personally fascinated with the sky sounds of the apocalypse, myself. Others are fascinated with the large bird and fish die-offs that had occurred a few years ago. Yet it's our responsibility to rightly teach how to study prophecy, and not become hand-wringing, pickers and chooser bell ringers when they happen.

The most important thing is to always point to the certainty and safety of life in Christ. Once we repent and are justified by faith in Jesus as Resurrected Savior, He will always hold us in His hand. We become legal heirs and sons of God. Our life changes from one of despair to one of hope and joy. Our future is also spoken of. It does not include rivers running with blood or fish die-offs or starvation or other prophetic wrathful things. Our future is one of hopeful prophecy, like this:

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:6-12)

Or this prophecy:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 23:7)

Or this:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

So when you come across someone who is interested in a strange phenomena, and connects it with bits of prophecy they have heard, teach them the true prophecy from the bible, show them why it can't be happening now. Connect their interest in prophecy with Jesus and His Gospel. It is one reason He gave us prophecy, to warn of judgements to come for the ungodly- and ultimately to educate about the One who spoke it, Jesus Christ.

Common ground with false teachers doesn't exist

These are brief excerpts from a tremendous sermon by John MacArthur in 2012 called

Creative Commons, source
And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. (Jeremiah 14:14-15)

Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.'" ...“I did not send the prophets, (Jeremiah 23:16-17, 21)
John MacArthur: You think that’s gone away? That hasn’t gone away.
False teachers are described graphically in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament like this:
The description of them goes like this, “They are leaven. They are whited tombs, whited walls, graves concealed, broken pots covered with silver, tares, wolves in sheep’s clothing, wells without water, they are presumptuous, natural brute beasts to be taken and destroyed, they are filth spots and scabs, immoral, covetous, cursed children, clouds in a tempest to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever, deluded dreamers who defile the flesh, spots on your love feasts, clouds without water, trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots, raging waves of the sea foaming out their own shame, wandering stars to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness. They are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts, their mouths speaking great swelling words, cloaks over sin, sensual and without the Holy Spirit.” (source)
That’s a sad state. That’s counterfeit religious authority. Why would you be looking for common ground with them?
 The answer is obvious. Common ground with false teachers doesn't exist.
Clerical collar on a table in a pub. CC. Source
Listen to the entire sermon. It's good.

Teens plant white flags atop Brooklyn Bridge

This is interesting on so many levels. First, the kids waltzed up the Brooklyn Bridge undetected, despite a plethora of cameras and herds of patrolling terror cops. Turns out the video is too blurry and doesn't have facial recognition capability. Okey dokey then. Thanks for the million$.

Second, I get the joke. I mean, it could be that the suspects, four skateboarding teens, planted a white flag to make a statement that we must surrender. But I think they are making a statement that we HAVE surrendered. As a nation. Here is the story. It is still unfolding.

Skateboarder, friends sought by cops in Brooklyn Bridge flag switch
A skateboarder and four young pals emerged Wednesday as the unlikely suspects who eluded around-the-clock NYPD security to scale the venerable Brooklyn Bridge and raise two white flags. While cops had no real leads in the second day of their probe, the five youths wanted for questioning were described as in their late teens or early 20s, a source told the Daily News. There’s still no explanation for the removal of two U.S. flags or the bizarre substitution of two bleached-white American flags left flying above the bridge’s two towers Tuesday. New Yorkers on the bridge amid ramped-up security Wednesday were still wondering how anyone could reach the top of the two towers on the 131-year-old landmark without detection. “It’s crazy that someone was able to do this when there are all these cops around,” said Kristen Ames, 30, who walks across the bridge to work every day.
Millions of Manhattanites and Brooklyners awoke to white flags on top of the most iconic NY landmark in the city and one of the most identifiable landmarks in the world. I understand that this might have cause a great deal of fear on the minds of those who lived through the worst ever terror incident on our soil the September 11, 2001 Islamic attacks.

But I think it is more of a teenage prank joke. Putting a white flag up to bring a visual to what we all already know: our nation's president has caused this nation to capitulate. At least that's how I read it.

It got me thinking about flags and banners. I recently posted a story about how the American Embassy in Israel hoisted a homosexual rainbow flag in support of Gay Days in Tel Aviv. That sparked outrage and anger in the US and abroad.

Flags mean things. They are a potent symbol.

When my husband and I lived aboard our sailboat, we had anchored in the James River in Virginia, near William and Mary College. It was an out of the way anchorage, far upriver, and not many cruisers made it up there. We thought we had the anchorage to ourselves, until we heard a cannon shot! I was the Tall Ship HMS Rose, a training Tall Ship. They came in gangbusters. They circled us, downed their national flag and hoisted the pirate Jolly Roger. We got a huge kick out of that. They were probably training the cadets on rope work. We saw them scrambling up and down and everywhere. They shot the cannon once more and then re-hoisted the national flag and headed back downriver. It happened so fast we thought it was a mirage! That was twenty years ago but I still get a chuckle from remembering it.

HMS Rose hoisting the Jolly Roger

Back in pirate times though, if a ship downed its national flag and hoisted the Jolly Roger, you knew you were in for the fight of your life, literally. You fought and maybe died, or you surrendered and definitely died. The Jolly Roger struck fear. It meant something.

Who doesn't feel a certain amount of national pride in thinking of the American flag planted on the moon? I do.

Source- Times Herald

By our flag you know who we are. Back in when I was traveling to Europe a lot, I noticed a decline in affection for Americans between 1990 and 1998. By the end of the decade, Americans were sewing Canadian Maple Leaf ensigns on their backpacks and luggage, in hopes of getting better service at the least, and to avoid a fight at the most.

A white flag on an important landmark like the Brooklyn bridge, and BTW an important piece of infrastructure, is a signal, whether the teens intended it to be or not. They perhaps performed a prank, or maybe something more intentional. They haven't been caught and brought to justice yet so we don't know. But a white flag means surrender. Has America surrendered? I believe so. Many fine Americans are still willing to fight for our liberty, but if our national life blood is in the hands of the top officials, then yes, I do believe we've surrendered.

How I wish the nation would surrender to Jesus, how I wish the capitulation would really mean that every knee is bowing and every tongue is confessing. I pray that almost every night. I pray, "Lord, will tomorrow be the day that every knee shall bow and Your name shall be lifted in glory?" I can't wait for that.

God spoke to Moses. He told Moses to tell the Joshua and the Israelites that He purposed to utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.

And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner (Exodus 17:15)

The Hebrew word in this verse for banner means "a standard, ensign, signal, sign." Right now on earth there are a multitude of flags for 193 nations, a number of emblems, like the perverted rainbow flag, and banners galore. There is even a Christian flag. But someday there will be ONE Leader, ONE banner, ONE symbol. We will all identify under it, the cross, and our Leader is Jesus. Everyone who surrendered to Him before death will be given white, this time meaning the righteousness of Jesus imputed to us.

What a day that will be.


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